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Manage the ‘surrogate mom’

Hush overzealous parents in your workplace

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management

Alice, 57, has three grown children. She’s a capable administrative assistant but her real “talent” is parenting younger workers. She gets wrapped up in their personal lives and offers constant unsolicited advice on life and love. She thinks everyone appreciates her wisdom, when in fact she’s an annoyance.

If your office has a surrogate mom or dad who insists on parenting the younger crowd, tread lightly. After all, they’re only trying to be kind and supportive. But they tend to grate on co-workers who don’t want to confront a mother or father figure at work. Take these steps:

Find a safe outlet. Match up a surrogate mom or dad with an employee who might benefit from frequent parental oversight. A good candidate: a callow rookie who lacks maturity or who craves a mentor.

By unleashing the “parent” on a willing “child,” you give everyone else a chance to go about his work without interference. Meanwhile, both parties will feel comfortable in their roles.

Warn gently. If employees on the receiving end of a surrogate parent’s nosiness complain about being nagged or lectured, you’ll need to have a talk with the well-intentioned troublemaker. Explain that parenting younger employees is unnecessary and often unwelcome.

If that doesn’t work, make the individual aware of it when he or she lapses. This might involve keeping a weekly log of every instance you observe (or hear about) that’s inappropriate.

Enlist their help. You may want to harness a parental influence to instill discipline when employees have problems with punctuality, profanity or etiquette. Rather than discipline them yourself, ask the “parent” to take a mildly irresponsible worker “under your wing.”

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